Wild dogs invade western division

Wild dogs invade western division


An increase in wild dog numbers in the north-west of the state is endangering livestock production

Robert Bartlett on his property near Wanarring with one of the wild dogs he has caught. Photo: Eveline Bartlett

Robert Bartlett on his property near Wanarring with one of the wild dogs he has caught. Photo: Eveline Bartlett

Robert Bartlett and son Ben have been managing the family Merino sheep and goat properties based at Toonborough near Wanaaring and in Robert's case for the past fifty years, during which time until 2009 he had only seen three dingoes in the district.

"There was one here in 1956 which my father shot, and in the mid-1980s I shot one and so did my neighbour," he said.

However, since 2009 he has seen an increase in numbers across the region, a situation aggravated by the floods of 2010/11 which destroyed sections of the wild dog fence along the Queensland/NSW border.

"We haven't been able to get on top of them since that time," he said.

Mr Bartlett feels the dingoes have been breeding in NSW for some time and while the break in the dog fence has allowed some to come through many landholders on the NSW side have been unaware of the magnitude of the problem.

"There aren't so many people living out here now with the amalgamation of properties and with many absentee landholders accessing the carbon credits from their properties there hasn't been the incentive to control the wild dogs," he said.

"There has been a huge reduction in Merino numbers and a lot of people have switched to Dorpers and goats," he said.

"Over the past few years we have continually seen a lot of evidence where wild dogs have killed numbers of sheep, goats and kangaroos".

At the present time the Bartlett family are unsure of the damage done to their Merino flock; because of the drought he hasn't been able to muster for shearing but is certain wild dogs will have had an impact on stock numbers.

"Goat numbers are diminishing and we aren't seeing many kids," he said.

On the family aggregation, Robert and Ben Bartlett has an ongoing program combining trapping and shooting with a regular baiting schedule to control in an attempt to eliminate the dogs from their properties..

"This year we have shot or trapped 19 dogs and that is on top of the 38 we caught or shot last year," he said.

"It doesn't take into count the number who have taken the baits."

Mr Bartlett said the drought has allowed them to concentrate on the few waterholes to which to dogs will come to drink; but if we get a good season they will retreat to the isolated areas and breed up again.

"This is a big problem close to my heart," he said.

"We are one of the few Merino breeders still left in the region and we don't want the dogs tearing our sheep to pieces," he said.

"Most people are on board with an autumn and spring baiting but we think it has lot its effectiveness."

While baiting remains an effective tool in dog control Robert Bartlett said they think it has lost some of its impact because there is plenty of other food available.

"Landholders need to have a shooting and trapping program in place if we are to get on top of the problem," he said.

Brian Bambrick with a wild dog he trapped last year. Photo: Leanne Bambrick

Brian Bambrick with a wild dog he trapped last year. Photo: Leanne Bambrick

North of Enngonia similar problems with wild dogs are occurring with Brian Bambrick reporting having caught two in traps in the past week on his property in the Lednapper district.

On their 28,300ha aggregation based at Stanbert which he has operated with wife Leanne for the past 12 years, Mr Bambrick has noted expanding evidence of wild dog activity since they took over the properties.

"When we came here in 2007 no one was talking about a dog problem," he said.

"We bought 500 sheep and within 12 months we had none."

That loss sounded alarm bells for Mr Bambrick and he very quickly learnt to recognise signs of dog activity.

"One I knew what to look for I could see signs everywhere," he said.

"We had dozens of packs each with eight to ten dogs so we laid 10,000 1080 baits."

For the following 12 months Mr Bambrick said he didn't see any dog tracks, but then slowly he saw packs were forming so he kept up with his trapping program as he thought the baits were no longer as effective as they had been.

"There are a lot of landholders around Enngonia who have formed dog groups and they are having some success and the idea is spreading across the state," he said.

"We have caught 51 dogs since 2007 but we can't get near a lot of them,"

Mr Bambrick applauds all efforts to control the dogs and he spends at least 30 hours a week checking the traps.

"I will keep on trapping and shooting because we just have to keep at them," he said.

"It is a challenge and I don't want them to beat me."

Landholders can deal with the drought, Mr Bambrick said, but they can't deal with losses of stock due to the wild dogs.

"They are the one thing which will bring the bush to its knees," he said.

Under the Western Regional Strategic Pest Animal Management Plan 2018-23 wild dogs are classified as an Established Species and managed under an Asset Based Protection framework.

Within that legislative framework, Lisa Caswell, Biosecurity Officer- Bourke/Wanaaring Local Land Services Western Region said wild dogs and their impacts are a shared problem and their control is a shared responsibility.

"Control is undertaken by land managers and supported by agencies," Ms Caswell said.

"The Western LLS Biosecurity team work with community based Pest Management and Landcare Groups to manage and undertake seasonal aerial and ground baiting programs twice annually."

Underpinning the success of these activities is the community group model, and Ms Caswell stressed to maximise the effectiveness of our combined efforts it is vital that land managers work together to continue to develop and strengthen local networks.

"With the success and strength of this model already proven, Western LLS are concentrating on developing further links with additional stakeholders such as Shire Councils and other Public Land Managers," she said.

"Reporting is equally critical and landholders need to regularly report numbers and locations of wild dogs as well as damage and losses believed to be caused by Wild Dogs to Biosecurity staff or through their local group."

Ms Caswell said besides a number of other initiatives that are actively gathering important data on Wild Dog populations, Western LLS are currently working on a large-scale monitoring framework that not only consolidates and streamlines reporting processes but provides meaningful data for strategic planning.

"Western LLS continually seek opportunities for collaboration to implement innovative technologies, utilise legislative instruments and develop specialised support to overcome barriers experienced in the Western Region including for example, absenteeism and changes in enterprise type," she said.

"An integrated, consistent approach is what is required to successfully manage this issue, and that can only be achieved through strong partnerships and collaboration."


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